Selective democracy: Why does the West react differently to police violence in Tbilisi and Yerevan? -ANALYTICS

Selective democracy: Why does the West react differently to police violence in Tbilisi and Yerevan? -ANALYTICS
# 14 May 2024 16:26 (UTC +04:00)

In Armenia, protests continue demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Every day, dozens of people are being detained in rallies and acts of civil disobedience under the leadership of Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, the head of the "For the Sake of the Homeland - Tavush" movement, and they face physical violence from the police. Just on May 13th, more than 150 people were detained during protest actions in Armenia. True, they are released a few hours later, but such "leniency" is not always observed. In recent days, criminal cases have been initiated against some activists on charges of resistance or incitement to violence against the police during protest actions. Armenian police apply disproportionate force against all protesters regardless of age, gender, or status, sometimes causing injuries. In addition to opposition activists, ordinary citizens, even human rights defenders and journalists, are subjected to police violence during the actions, with some being detained.

The illegal actions of the police obstructing journalists from shedding light on events and carrying out their professional activities have also led to protests from the Armenian Journalists Union. In the Union's protest statement, incidents of police violence were highlighted, including the case of Meri Manukyan, a journalist, who was subjected to violence by a special police unit and post-patrol service colleagues during the mass detention of citizens, resulting in her losing consciousness, or in another episode, the deliberate pushing from behind of Mher Davtyan, an ABC Media cameraman, by a police colleague wielding batons, causing him injuries. The Union criticizes the Armenian government's soft and biased treatment towards pro-government media representatives and its use of double standards and pressure tactics against opposition journalists. The latest pressure incident against media representatives is the case of Nare Gevorgyan, a journalist from, who was hit by a police car. The injured journalist has been admitted to a medical clinic for treatment.

It seems that in Armenia, the opposition's protests against the Pashinyan government are being observed alongside instances of police violence, media repression, and mass detentions.

The issue here is not just about the actions orchestrated by the elusive monk Bagrat, but rather about the behavior, violence, and aggressiveness of the Armenian police, as well as their mass detentions.

The most intriguing aspect of the matter is the lack of substantial reactions from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House, and international journalist associations, which proclaim themselves as defenders of the world's fundamental human rights, to the events unfolding.

In contrast to Armenia, the situation with neighboring Georgia, where parallel political tensions are occurring, is different. Ongoing protest actions against plans to adopt the "Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence" in the country's Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) sector by the ruling "Georgian Dream" party are being closely monitored by all relevant human rights organizations, Western country ambassadors, and employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The West, closely scrutinizing the protests in Tbilisi, immediately notes any minor disturbances during the actions and voices protest-filled statements because they see the "Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence" as a threat to their interests. Therefore, the U.S. State Department, along with the Foreign Ministries of France and other European countries, as well as organizations proclaiming themselves as defenders of human rights such as the European Council and the European Parliament, condemn police violence during protest actions and highlight any violations.

For instance, the silent stance of "Amnesty International" regarding the events in Armenia led them to demand from the Georgian government "to cease the unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters and hold the perpetrators accountable." Statements from organizations presenting themselves as defenders of human rights often echo statements circulated by Western foreign ministries, containing similar theses. Demands for the withdrawal of the "Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence" are reiterated by "Amnesty International" and other organizations in statements similar to those made by the U.S. State Department, the French Foreign Ministry, and the European Union. This raises questions about the independence of these organizations and indicates that issues not favored by the West are framed as "problems" in the field of human rights to side with the opposing party.

In other words, the approach taken towards similar actions in Armenia and Georgia reveals that the Western understanding of democracy is not based on unified, standard, and equal principles but is rather presented in a distorted form to suit their own interests.

It appears that no matter how much Pashinyan and his government pursue a pro-Western policy, moving towards breaking away from Russia's sphere of influence, neither Western governments nor the NGOs under their influence raise their voices against police violence, arrests, fabricated charges, pressure on journalists, detention of political opponents, or even deaths (such as the case of Mher Yeghiazaryan, Deputy Chairman of the Armenian Eagles-United Armenia party, who died in prison as a result of a hunger strike in 2019). At least the trend seen in recent years, along with the difference between Azerbaijan and Georgia with Armenia, underscores this point. If the events occurring in Armenia were even a fraction of the repression and pressure on journalists that Azerbaijan faces, it is not difficult to imagine the political tsunami effect it would have in the West. The different approach to similar processes in Tbilisi and Yerevan in recent days further confirms this.

The conclusion drawn is that human rights, media freedom, and the right to free assembly vary depending on the country for the West. A country that cooperates with Western countries and institutions, behaving as they wish – such as Armenia currently – can neglect all established rights, turning a blind eye to police violence. On the other hand, a country that goes against the will of the West, ensuring even the flying dust of such rights, is very important for Westerners.

This reality is now seen and understood by everyone. That's why statements issued by the US, France, and other countries, as well as institutions bearing the name of human rights defenders, are not taken seriously by anyone.

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